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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ka'ewai gets back to basics reading

By Joshua Masayoshi Huff
Advertiser Staff Writer

Ka'ewai Elementary School fifth-graders Savanah Kahakai, left, and Ritsel Ponce participate in the school's "Success For All" program, which has improved reading scores.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Where: 1929 Kamehameha IV Road

Phone: 832-3500

Principal: Dale Spaulding, 6 1/2 years at Ka'ewai

School nickname: Dolphins

School colors: Maroon and white

Enrollment: 265 students

Low-income enrollment: 75.4 percent in 2004-05

Students with limited English proficiency: 25.3 percent in 2004-05

Testing: Here's how Ka'ewai Elementary students fared on the 2005 standardized tests (2006 scores not yet available):

  • Stanford Achievement Test: Listed is the combined percentage of pupils scoring average and above average, compared with the national combined average of 77 percent: Third-grade reading, 73 percent; math, 71 percent. Fifth-grade reading, 69 percent; math, 88 percent.

  • Hawai'i State Assessment: Listed is the combined percentage of pupils meeting or exceeding state standards, and a comparison with the state average: Third-grade reading, 24 percent, compared with state average of 51.8 percent; math, 12 percent, compared with 28.5 percent. Fifth-grade reading, 60 percent, compared with state average of 55.6 percent; math, 18 percent, compared with 25.5 percent.

    History: Ka'ewai just celebrated its 50th anniversary.

    Special features: Newly renovated, stabilized buildings. There is a mural painted by students at the school and a sign at the school's entrance that keeps the community informed about upcoming events.

    Special programs or classes: Success for All reading program; Positive Action character program; Math Investigations program; Full Option Science System

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    Ka'ewai Elementary School has managed to do what two-thirds of Hawai'i's public schools could not meet state goals on the Hawai'i State Assessment, or make "adequate yearly progress."

    And Ka'ewai has done it two out of the past three years, no small feat for a school that serves predominantly disadvantaged and immigrant children, said principal Dale Spaulding.

    "We just have to work and work and work and work and not give up," said Spaulding. "We stick to things that work, but we are also always trying new and different things."

    Ka'ewai Elementary is in the foothills of Kalihi. The campus is not very wide, but the classroom buildings are terraced down a gently sloping hill, giving the school a secure and secluded feel. Light mists are common on campus, and the classrooms are open and airy.

    Many classrooms have storage areas for backpacks outside, a symbol of the community feeling of trust and respect that Spaulding feels is central to the school.

    The school's reading program, "Success for All," has helped improve student skills, said Spaulding. Every day there is a 90-minute in-class reading session during which teachers read to students and then students read to themselves.

    Every night, students are required to read to their parents for at least 20 minutes.

    Students also are allowed to read with grades other than their own. For example, a third-grade student who reads at an accelerated level can spend reading time with a fifth-grade class.

    Every eight weeks, students are evaluated to see whether they are making improvements and if they need to be changed to a different reading group. A certain percentage of students in every grade who are having problems reading attend one-on-one tutoring sessions.

    Spaulding said the program "works well for us because it really takes into account special-education children, ESL children, regular-education children and gifted and talented children so there is a place for everybody."

    Parents also are an important factor in the school's success. The parents have a lot of trust and are very supportive, said Spaulding, and "though many come from non-literate societies and can't speak English, they always do whatever they can to support their kids and the school, which is something we simply could not do without."

    What are you most proud of? The hard work and sacrifices the faculty make to give our students a top-notch education, said Spaulding. Also, making Adequate Yearly Progress and the beautiful grounds that our custodial staff maintains.

    Best-kept secret: That 33 percent of our school's students are from outside district boundaries and must apply and be accepted in order to attend.

    Everybody at our school knows: Auntie Barb, our health aide and co-coordinator of the A-Plus program.

    Our biggest challenge: Passing the state reading and math exams.

    What we need: We need supplies, said Spaulding. "We're a high-poverty area. We need parent involvement to support the children's education. (The) community is becoming more and more supportive as they learn about us and our efforts."

    Special events: The school just celebrated its 50th anniversary in June with a week of activities, including a student and a community fair.